Congress is set to open the door to a gargantuan budget deal -- here's what's in it

  • Senate leaders from both parties on Wednesday agreed to a massive two-year budget deal.
  • The deal would increase funding for federal defence and nondefense programs by $US296 billion over the next two years.
  • The legislation also includes changes to Medicare, the tax code, and more.
  • While it appears to have enough support in the Senate, the House may prove dicier.

Congress is expected to vote Thursday on a massive bipartisan budget deal to increase funding for government programs by hundreds of billions of dollars while averting another shutdown.

The deal, announced Wednesday by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, would bump spending for both defence and nondefense programs while also fulfilling various policy goals from both sides of the aisle.

The deal would set the budget caps for the next two years and extend the current level of funding through March 23, giving congressional appropriators enough time to hash out the details of where exactly the money will go.

With that in mind, here’s what’s in the legislation:

  • Extends current level of federal funding through March 23.
  • Lifts the statutory budget caps for defence and nondefense spending by a combined $US296 billion over the next two years.

    • The defence cap would increase to $US629 billion for fiscal 2018 and $US647 billion for fiscal 2019 – a total of $US165 billion over the existing cap.
    • The nondefense cap would increase to $US579 billion for fiscal 2018 and $US597 billion for fiscal 2019 – a total of $US131 billion over the existing cap.
  • Suspends the debt ceiling until March 1, 2019.
  • Offers $US89.3 billion in additional funding for areas affected by natural disasters in 2017.

    • $US23.5 billion to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Relief Fund.
    • $US17.39 billion to the US Army Corps of Engineers for projects to prevent future damage.
    • $US28 billion to the Department of Housing and Urban Development to help rebuild homes and infrastructure.
    • The rest would go to funds within the Small Business Administration, the Department of Defence, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and other agencies to help repair damages.
  • Extends certain Medicare provisions, including the removal of a cap on therapy services, funding for community health centres and rural and Medicare-dependent hospitals, and more.
  • Extends certain tax provisions, including from the new GOP tax law, and edits some parts of the tax code.
  • Adds four years of funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program. The spending bill signed in January extended CHIP for six years, so its funding will now last through 10 years.
  • Adds funds for agencies above current levels to mitigate the effects of the short-term spending bill, including increased funding for the 2020 Census, the Southeastern Power Administration, the F-35 fighter-jet program, and more.

Though it’s still not completely clear the bill will pass, its chance seems likely. Government funding is set to run out at the end of Thursday, which will lead to a shutdown if Congress does not pass funding legislation.

The legislation is expected to pass in the Senate, given the support of leadership. But the House may present some problems.

Several conservative Republicans have voiced opposition to the bill because it increases spending and would add to the federal debt. The House Freedom Caucus, made up of roughly 30 hardline conservative members, officially came out against the legislation on Wednesday.

“The House Freedom Caucus opposes the deal to raise spending caps on discretionary spending by nearly $US300 billion over two years,” it said in a statement. “We support funding for our military, but growing the size of government by 13% adds to the swamp instead of draining it. This is not what the American people sent us here to do.”

Meanwhile, many House Democrats have expressed reservations that the bill does not address the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration program, which is set to expire on March 5.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, who supports the plan, said Thursday that he believes there are enough votes to pass the bill and avoid a shutdown.

“I think we will. I feel good,” Ryan said. “Part of it depends on the Democrats. This is a bipartisan bill. It’s going to need bipartisan support. We are going to deliver our share of support. I feel very good about Republicans.”

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